About 2,000 people gathered Friday morning at the Highland Community Center in Bellevue to support Mitt Romney, vying to be the GOP nominee for president and to drum up support before Saturday's Washington state Republican Caucus. campaign organizers said.
Former State Sen. Dino Rossi, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and radio personality Michael Medved all encouraged attendees .
Romney hopes to win delegates from Washington state in Saturday's GOP caucus, which is expected to be well attended.
People attended the public rally from all over the state.
Paul Hutchinson from Puyallup said that he drove to Bellevue from Puyallup to get a place in line at 6 a.m. to attend Romney's rally.
He said he likes all the candidates, but his priorities matched Romney's -- improving the economy and ousting President Barack Obama in November's election.
"I like Santorum a lot. I even like Gingrich to a certain extent, but I think Mitt Romney is best as far as the economy goes. I think also he’s the most prepared to beat Barack Obama which is the most important thing," he said.
Ginhee Rancourt of Vancouver came with her mother and brothers and sisters, hoping to perform "Romney's the Man," a song that she and her siblings wrote supporting Romney.
"It’s basically what we admire in him and why we think he’d be a wonderful president for our country," she said. "It outlines his record as governor of Massachusetts… We love his strength and character. We love his plan for the economy.”
More attention has been put on the Washington state caucus than in past years, because of the hotly contested GOP presidential nomination process. Though Romney is still widely considered to be the front-runner, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has won four of the eleven state contests so far, with Romney taking six states and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich taking one state.
Washington also is the only state holding a caucus on Saturday and it would lead up to Super Tuesday, when Republicans in 10 states will decide which candidate to back in the presidential election againt President Barack Obama.
Romney, who warmed the crowd with stories of how he met his wife, Ann, saying she would make a great First Lady, got an enthusiastic response from the crowd by saying he would lower taxes and end "Obama era" regulations in an effort to spur business and job growth.
Romney tailored his message to the Western Washington crowd, saying that he would establish tariffs on China, for currency manipulation and for their unfair business practices, particularly in software and aircraft manufacturing.
"They steal our intellectual property, our designs, our knowhow, our patents, our brand names, even. It has an impact," he said, saying that pirated software costs U.S. busineses $8 billion a year.
"By the way -- Boeing, get ready -- China wants to start making big aircraft, commercial aircraft. Guess who’s designs and technology they’re going to steal?"
He also criticized Obama for not keeping his promises to cut the nation's debt.
The rally was his second campaign appearance in two days, after a Thursday night private fundraising event at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue. The event, reportedly $1,000 a plate, was private, but donors were .